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How To Change From A Social Media User Into A Social Media Leader

I created and then abandoned a Twitter account many months ago. I had virtually zero reputation outside of Twitter when I started. And it wasn’t an account that became popular by following everyone back or using other tricks. On the abandoned account, all tweets were removed except one, which said:

Do not follow this account, follow this other account instead.

However, nearly 100,000 people followed the old account in the coming months (though many figured out their error eventually, and switched to the new one). That’s the power of a leader’s reputation in social media. Reputation can bring people to you even after you have left.

I’ve distilled what I’ve learned into five key techniques ANYONE can use to become a leader in social media. Some of these would rightly be called “secrets” because so few people seem to have ever heard of these concepts. So if you’re ready to have thousands of new users interested in what you have to say, let me start with the biggest secret of all:

1. Find And Champion Key Users

One of my more popular Twitter friends retweeted something from my @TweetSmarter account a couple of weeks ago. Then one of her more popular friends retweeted it. At last count, it had received over 70,000 clicks:

70,000 Clicks

So if you could get either of these popular folks to retweet you, it would be your tweets getting thousands of extra clicks. Nice, right? I was also once added to a list of recommended to follow folks by a popular user. I gained several thousand extra followers in total on the days they tweeted about that list.

So, how do you get key users interested in what you share on social media? By first taking an interest in them. Imagine someone is always saying good things about you, promoting you and your needs to their community. All your dreams and desires matter to them, and they support you and encourage others to support you as well. They always promote a positive image of you and your interests.

Want to get people to do something like this for you? Then first do it for them. This is what I call the “super advocate” concept. It’s also known by an older name: the golden rule.

Social media has the potential to speed up human interactions. So, “do onto others as you would have them do unto you,” can really produce amazing results in a short time on social media. The “how to” of this is simple:

  1. Learn to select the right key users for you. Tip: Search Twitter Directories for topics you care about.
  2. Devote 2/3 of your social media time to engaging with one key user at a time.
  3. Repeat.

2. Don’t Talk To An Empty Room

Did you happen to notice that both @AskAaronLee and @DanaMStanley increased their Klout score 11 to 15 points in just over three weeks, and credited primarily one simple thing for the increase? Both of their Klout scores took a huge leap after they started using BufferApp. With BufferApp you can schedule your Twitter and Facebook updates when most people are likely to be listening. You can’t lead if no one is listening. Combined with tools that track when your community is active online such as WhenToTweet, BufferApp can very efficiently increase your effectiveness on social media.

Note: You should check out the Science of Social Timing collection of infographics for more detailed information on this point.

3. To Become A Leader In Your Own Community, Start By Helping Existing Communities

Leaders get in front of communities to help them with their goals.

A great example of this is hashtag chats on Twitter. These are places people come to ask questions and share expertise on specific topics, such as #ToolsChat. First, choose one that fits your interests, and listen and learn. As you begin to understand the community, begin contributing. If you make the effort required to be a helpful contributor, you grow your reputation as a leader.

4. Create Community Interactions, Not Just Individual Interactions

Social media can be very time consuming. You need to find ways to increase your efficiency. One way is creating community interactions. The simplest approach is to ask questions of your community. I particularly like to take questions that come to me and turn around and ask the community to help. Another simple approach is to do a poll, whether impromptu or by linking to a poll app on your own website. It’s one post from you that engages many people.

5. Focus On High-Value Or Efficient Interactions And Connections Only

You can measure the quality of your efforts by asking of each interaction:

  1. Does it build reputation?
  2. Does it deliver value to me or someone else?
  3. Does it increase connectedness to my community?
  4. Is it efficient?

Rather than trying to encompass the entire range of possible social media efforts you can make, let me point out what is probably the highest value interaction in social media: Using your expertise to help someone. This is one reason why social media is such a helping place: it lets you create community that looks to you as a leader and mentor. For example, taking the time to search Twitter for questions people have about topics you know something about is a very high-value activity.


As you build your reputation as a leader, your reputation will begin to take on a life of its own. That’s how my abandoned account got tens of thousands of followers. It was an incredible lesson to me. Many people even kept tweeting personal recommendations of the old account name until they figured out the change. Because it was on tons of list, recommended in many, many blog posts, etc., people attracted to the reputation just kept arriving. And all I did was start by helping. Done right, helping is the highest quality and most efficient interaction possible, as it also creates connections, and builds reputation. And everyone can help someone. If you can help one person, you can help two, and if you can help two, you have already started building a community, and creating your reputation as a leader in that community. Don’t lose sight of always creating quality interactions and making quality connections. Use the quality scale and be ruthless with your time, and you too can quickly be acknowledged as an awesome leader yourself!

About the Author: As @TweetSmarter, Dave Larson has answered thousands of questions for his 300,000+ Twitter followers worldwide over the past 4+ years. His goal is to assist and empower everyone he comes into contact with.

  1. Great post, Dave! One thing I didn’t see mentioned in your post was hitting content publishers to engage your targeted audience and niche… What are your thoughts on this? Do companies like Tidal ( truly help push your content so that it is actually seen and read in such a saturated market?

    • Guest posting (like I have done here, and as facilitates) can be a key tool in your arsenal. Related tools such as BlogGlue and Triberr can help as well.

      However, the efficiency of connecting with top users who can share your content can be enormous, as evidenced by the 70,000+ clicks example in my post.

  2. Robin Wolaner Nov 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I’d follow you, but have seen the Fail Whale daily on Twitter.

  3. Yeah, Twitter is having some problems lately :(

  4. I still do not understand how I can find users on twitter to try direct them to my web page and try get sales. I just do not get this social media thing and there are so many snake oil sales people who want to charge me a lot of money for their so called expertise, thanks for your information.

    • Arnav Bhatkar Nov 14, 2011 at 7:14 pm


      I suggest not to direct people to your site for sales but instead provide them with relevant content, whitepapers, ebooks or case study to prove your point.

      If you have a twitter account and have been tweeting regularly then you can goto to find your promoters, detractors and passives. Here you can find out who is talking about your product and to what extent, also go to to find out who is talking about a product in your vertical, hashtags are like keywords for twitter, for instance, i work for a company that makes software development tools so when i want to tweet i would my tweet to be picked by a larger audience hence #software, #applicationdevelopment, #sqlserver will be my hash tags in a sentence so when i go to i can see how many people are actually using this tag and then i can target them.

      If you would like to see or know how your tweet(s) are doing in social world you can use to measure your social presence, basically it’s your social analytics.

      I hope this is helpful.

    • You can use things like contests, specials, exclusive content, events, etc., but first you have to develop a network.

      You wouldn’t go to a party and ask people to leave to go to your store, right? You have to network first. Make connections, share interesting information, and add information about your business bit by bit.

  5. Richard Anthony Nov 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Very informative post, Dave. Your anecdote about the residual momentum you experienced with @Twitter_Tips strikes me as a clear example of cream rising to the top:)!

  6. This article needs to be read and re-read by so many major brands and corporations that just do not understand the value of social media. Twitter is working brilliantly for me and my little coffee shop. We started off making valuable business connections with our peers, starting to collaborate and share ideas. Now, over 2 years later, we have Twitter followers consisting of a mix of customers, local peers, worldwide people that share our interests and suppliers. Nothing is more boring than a tweet timeline with a link to your own website, a link to your offer, a statement about your best selling product and so on. Twitter is an interactive tool, people want to know what important information you have to share with them about their community, their interests, their problems, use Twitter as a medium to connect and communicate in a personable way and I promise that you will see that much hoped for increase in sales as a by-product. If you don’t understand, or enjoy the Twitter medium, perhaps it’s better to pay for someone else to do it for you. Really great article, thank you so much. Xx

    • You are really, really doing it right, Karen. Congratulations, and thanks for putting yourself forward as the inspiring example you are. More people need to know about people like you doing it right!

  7. Jeremy Roberts Nov 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Great post! Everyone one of those points is spot on. And they’re so simple and so obvious! Here I was thinking that I’m pretty active on social and wondering why my follower count is a fraction of some other people in the same space. And it so simple a had to smack myself in the head… engagement and reaching out. Helping out.

    • One of the roadblocks along the way is, of course, time management. Once you come across real secrets of success (whatever they may be) remember to keep control of your time. It can be real tempting to “overspend” your time when you see a way to get more value! You might find a tip or two in another guest post I wrote over at

  8. Douglas Ackerman Nov 16, 2011 at 3:19 am

    An excellent post, very well structured and illustrated. I am currently compiling an arsenal of info to launch at my employers. It’s an International Internet business which almost doesn’t exist on social networks. Almost unbelievable!

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to put together such a useful post.

  9. @Dave Larson
    the pic “create-community-interactions.jpg” looks pretty, where can i find/buy like this.

    thank 4 help

  10. Dave @tweetsmarter All of your information is both helpful and powerful. I think the key to any amount success is knowledge and wisdom. I try to learn from everything i can and use it in a positive manner. Thanks for all your insite.
    Rajaee @vizualye

  11. Awesome job! I absolutely love this article, and it entails a lot of the real-world lessons that need to be learned as soon as possible in one’s career. Thanks, and Happy New Year!

  12. Barry Overstreet Jan 09, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    This is a great article! I’m new to the blogging world, and very new to Twitter. This article provides definitive areas where I can improve on my application of Twitter to grow my reach. And I can definitely use the help. Twitter is a whole new ballgame for me as I just never had any need for it before getting into blogging.

    Thanks for the awesome information. It’s articles like these that help us newbies figure this stuff out!


  13. So basically just stalk other influential people in your industry! Only messing. You guys publish some amazing content – you’ve helped us with our digital strategy loads. Will definitely be looking at using your product once we start to see some traction. Thanks!

  14. Rachel McDermott Mar 27, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Thanks for the great advice. I’ve been soaking up as much as I can re: social media. Just getting started, so I feel a bit behind at times but looking forward to seeing results as I stick with it and take the advice of those who’ve gone before me.


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